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Naylor’s Electric closing after nearly a century

Two generations of Naylors are pictured. Standing, from left, are Robb Naylor, Bob Naylor, Jim Naylor and Mike Naylor; seated, from left, are William “Chub” Naylor and Charlie Naylor. Pioneer File Photo

BEMIDJI – After nearly a century in business, Naylor’s Electric is announcing today that it will begin the process of closing the business.

A sale is expected to begin next week as the four owners prepare for retirement.

“We’ve been at this for over 40 years. We’re all in our 60s and there’s no one coming behind us,” said Robb Naylor, one of four cousins who own the longtime Bemidji business. “We’re the third generation but there isn’t a fourth generation coming in behind us with an interest.”

The store already was at a crossroads, having committed to a lease arrangement with TrekNorth Junior and Senior High School to have the charter school take over the 5.5-acre property.

Remodeling work is expected to begin this fall for TrekNorth, Naylor said.

TrekNorth approached the Naylors a couple of years ago wondering if they would be open to leasing the building, Robb Naylor said. It hadn’t cross their minds, but the owners realized that it might be a good arrangement.

“We’re happy,” Robb Naylor said. “They’ll be a wonderful renter. We’re excited for them.”

At the time, the Naylors expected to relocate the business. But as the owners looked at available properties, the investment that it would take and considering the owners’ ages, they had a change of heart.

“Initially, we thought, ‘We have to keep going,’” he said. “But then we thought about it for a while and it was like, no, we don’t have to.”

The business dates back to at least 1920 when it was incorporated by Albert “A.J.” Naylor Sr., who started the company out of his garage.

A.J. Naylor Sr., the cousins’ grandfather, moved to Bemidji in the 1900s to operate the “light plant,” the city’s first power-generating facility. It was called the light plant because, at the time, electricity only powered lights.

In time, since he knew something about electricity, A.J. Naylor Sr. broke into the electrical-contracting business, going into homes to install electrical sockets.

His sons – Richard, Charles, Jack and William “Chub” – returned from World War II  and bought the business from their father in 1950, Robb Naylor said.

The business slowly expanded, first doing a little bit of wiring work and then selling electrical items such as radios and appliances as they became available.

The four cousins grew up with the business, working at Naylor’s throughout high school and college.

“I’ve been doing this for 44 years,” Robb Naylor said.

Naylor’s has employed as many as 70 employees at one time and now has about 11 on staff. Robb Naylor said they were kept informed as the owners looked into their options for the future.

“Throughout the process of considering a move, they knew we would be actively looking to see if it made sense,” he said. “That whole process, the whole discernment process, ultimately led us to decide, no. We all came in together at the same time, let’s all exit and retire at the same time.”